It was 1 A.M, I was watching TV, tired and flipping through the channels, looking for something I could fall asleep to, then I came across The Godfather on AMC.
As an Italian-American, I’m contractually obligated to drop whatever I’m doing and watch The Godfather whenever it presents itself, no excuses. I was left with a dilemma, stay up till 4 in the morning to watch the most perfect movie ever made, or go to sleep and, in doing so, disrespect my entire family and heritage.
Then, I remembered we have a kind and merciful God, a God who proved his kindness and mercifulness by bestowing man with the DVR. I promptly DVRed The Godfather and watched it this morning.
So many things make The Godfather a great movie. I’m not even going to list them, let’s just say it’s the perfect movie, and leave it at that. But, what I really love about The Godfather is every time I watch it, it seems like a different movie.
I’ve watched The Godfather Part I, conservatively, fifteen times, from beginning to end. And what amazes me is it’s always about something new. First, it was about the mafia, then it was about family, then it was a coming of age story, then it was about how power corrupts man, and so-on and so-on.
This morning, it was a whole new movie The Godfather is the ultimate Father and Son movie (sorry, Field of Dreams). It’s basically the story of Vito (Don) Corleone (Marlon Brando) and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), father and son, and the paradigm shift of the father and son relationship, when the son is no longer a child, but, instead, a man.
The movie starts with Michael returning home for his sister’s wedding. He’s just returned from the service, where he was a war hero. He is now a man. He knows about “the family business” and rejects it. He explains the business to his girlfriend, in brutal detail, and poignantly says, “that’s my family…that’s not me.” All be it, extremely heightened, this is a popular sentiment many young men feel. The desire to be their own man, and break away from their father’s path.
As the movie progresses Vito Corleone is shot and laid out in a hospital. It is the first time Michael sees his father as weak, with the potential to die. A realization that every son must come to, eventually. A realization that sucks. When Michael goes to the hospital to visit his father, he realizes his father is about to be assassinated. It’s now Michael’s job to protect his father, he leans in his father’s ear and tells him, “I’ll take care if your now. I’m with you now. I’m with you.” This is the turning point in their relationship. Where earlier he rejected his father, he is now “with” his father.
His father is now out of the hospital, but sick, and Michael has become the de facto leader of the family (a bunch of other things happened in the meantime, but we’re streamlining here). The two share a man to man talk. Don Corleone advises his son on a few matters before telling him, “I never wanted this for you…I always thought that when it was your time, that you would be…Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone, something.” A common wish many fathers hold for their son. A wish, that their sons will aspire to something more, something better and, in this case, something legitimate.
Finally, Vito Corleone dies. Michael, now officially, becomes the Don. The film ends with Michael standing in his office surrounded by the same men who once surrounded his father. Because, if there is one absolute about the father-son relationship, it’s we all become our fathers.